17-35mm F/2.8-4 Di OSD

17-35mm F/2.8-4 Di OSD

Tamron 17-35mm F2.8-4 Di OSD Review

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What We Loved. First, the obvious: this ultra wide-angle zoom lens is extremely light and compact, so much so that it almost feels like a toy lens. One of the many things we love about this lens is that we have a capable glass with a wide range of uses that hardly adds anything to our load. Another is the fact that it's got a wide range of uses, whether you're shooting a subject up close or you're going wide, so that when you're hiking, backpacking or just traveling in general and have no room for a lot of gear, you can count on this lens to satisfy your needs. Best of all, it's got fluorine coating and moisture resistant construction so that you can shoot in confidence even in bad weather, whether it's rain or heavy winds you're contending with. Of course, there are the other things too--it takes fantastic images with great contrast, excellent color fidelity, nice bokeh, and minimal chromatic aberrations; it's got an affordable price; and it has a quiet yet quick and precise AF.

What We'd Change. While Tamron has given the Tamron 17-35mm F/2.8-4 this Broad-band Anti-Reflection Coating to reduce reflection, ghosting, and flare, we've found that there's still a lot of room for improvement there. Additionally, we would have preferred a constant aperture of F/2.8 rather than a variable one. Having a variable aperture is necessary to keep the glass small and lightweight, but we found ourselves missing the F/2.8 aperture when shooting at 35mm. Also, while this lens has weather sealing and feels well made, we don't know if it's built for rugged conditions. Not that you can't take it out in the wild, just that you might have to be careful. Some people have complained about the lack of image stabilization, a feature that its rivals boast, but considering it's practically half the price, not to mention a lot lighter and much more compact, some things must be sacrificed. Other than these, we're pretty happy with this lens.

Pick This Up If... you need a lightweight and compact ultra wide-angle zoom lens to take with you on your travels, whether you're traveling in style or roughing it in the Great Outdoors, or when you're on the budget and you need an affordable lens that meets your needs, from landscapes and architecture to street photography and portraits. At $599, you're getting a whole lot of bang for your buck.

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INTRO

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Unless you're a professional photographer who can afford high-end lenses, you're probably always on the lookout for affordable glass that performs like native glass even if some things are compromised.

It's one of the things we appreciate about Tamron. They're on a mission to produce lenses that are excellent alternatives to the more expensive models, which benefits those of us who can't always afford a $1000 glass. For Nikon and Canon full-frame users looking for an ultra-wide zoom lens that produces stunning, sharp images, the Tamron 17-35mm F/2.8-4 is a fantastic alternative that also boasts a few other useful features like weather sealing and a short MOD of 11 inches.

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At $599, you're getting an ultra wide-angle lens that you can take anywhere, even in harsher conditions, whether you're just taking to the rainy streets or you're backpacking your way through the Pacific Crest Trail, and use for a number of things, from landscape photography to travel and astrophotography.

We took our review model to a theme park, on bowling night, to the desert, and even to a state park at night where the wind conditions were gnarly, and it performed beautifully. Let's dig in deeper and talk about its capabilities.

GEAR USED

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We tested our Tamron 17-35mm F/2.8-4 Di OSD review model with the Nikon D850 loaner from Nikon. To shoot our long exposures, we used an older Manfrotto BeFree Compact Tripod as well as the 77mm Variable ND Filter by Tiffen from B&H.

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FEATURES
  • Model: A037
  • Compatible Mounts: Canon, Nikon
  • Focal Length: 17-35mm
  • Maximum Aperture: F/2.8-4
  • OSD (Optimized Silent Drive)
  • Moisture Resistant 
  • Angle of View (for Full-Frame): 03°41' - 63°26'
  • Angle of VIew (for AP-SC): 78°46' - 43°29'
  • Optical Construction: 15 elements in 10 groups
  • Minimum Object Distance: 11.0 inches
  • Maximum Magnification Ratio: 1:4.9
  • Filter Size: 77mm
  • Aperture Blades: 7 
  • Minimum Aperture: F/16-F/22
  • Maximum Diameter: 3.3 in.
  • Length (Canon): 3.6 in
  • Length (Nikon): 3.5 in.
  • Weight (Canon & Nikon): 16.2 oz.
  • Included: Lens hood, Lens caps

BUILD QUALITY

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For an affordable lens, Tamron has equipped the Tamron 17-35mm F/2.8-4 with surprising features. For example, its weather sealing. And by that, we don't just mean some sort of dust resistance. This baby has weather sealing along the barrel and on the lens mount, as well as protective fluorine coating on the front element that not only makes it easier to clean, but also repels dust, dirt, and moisture.

While we haven't tested it during a downpour, the lens has gotten wet at a few theme park rides as well as survived desert dust, strong winds, and cooler temperatures--while the shutter was wide open, in fact--not to mention, narrowly escaped a shark bite, albeit a fake one.

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At 3.5 inches in length and 16.2 oz in weight, this lens is incredibly light and compact. In fact, Tamron touts it as the smallest and lightest in its class. That's a plus for travelers looking to use this lens as part of their go-to travel gear. The only thing is that it doesn't feel that tough. Don't get us wrong; it feels well made with high-quality material. At the same time, it also feels like it won't survive a hard bump or a fall. You'll be ok taking this with you on a backpacking trip, just be careful not to drop it or bang it hard on a rock.

There are two black rubber rings for focus and focal length, both of which turn smoothly and ribbed for a nice grip, on a matte-finished barrel. There's also a focus switch so you can switch from auto to manual in a moment's notice. 

ERGONOMICS

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Because the Tamron 17-35mm F/2.8-4 is super light and compact, it's got great handling. It's only 83.6mm in diameter and 90.0mm in length (Nikon model), which means that it's easy to handle even in small hands. And even though it's only 16.2 ounces in weight, it doesn't feel unbalanced when mounted on the D850, which weighs about 32 ounces.

The rubber rings, again, feel smooth to turn and ribbed for a nice grip while the focus control is easy to switch back and forth. Additionally, because of the fluorine coating on the front element, it's very easy to clean when you do have to deal with dust and rain. 

SPEED & FOCUS

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Besides the quiet and smooth autofocus, thanks to OSD (Optimized Silent Drive), making it perfect for shooting movies and wildlife, it also boasts a fast and precise AF even in low light. 

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While we missed testing this on action shots, we shot several long exposures at night both indoors and outdoors for our post, 5 Ways to Use Long Exposure Photography to Capture Motion, and it worked perfectly in cases when we didn't shoot in manual focus. Shooting in broad daylight, it was also able to quickly capture subjects that were in shadow.

The variable aperture of F/2.8 to F/4 might be a bit limiting creatively as the maximum aperture at 35mm is F/4, but it isn't that big of a deal. 

BOKEH

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With a seven aperture blade rounded diaphragm, the Tamron 17-35mm F/2.8-4 makes ok bokeh. You'll still get beautifully creamy backgrounds especially at the widest aperture and 28mm to 35mm focal lengths, but you won't yield perfectly smooth and round bokeh.

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IMAGE QUALITY

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When it comes to the quality of images it produces, the Tamron 17-35mm F/2.8-4 is definitely competitive, even if it falls short in one area or so. This glass' high-level optical performance, coupled with its four Low Dispersion lens element and two GM (Glass Molded Aspherical) lenses, helps it yield incredibly sharp images with great contrast, reduced distortion, and very minimal chromatic aberration. 

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In fact, while there might be some distortion (it is a wide-angle, after all), it doesn't bend straight lines nor does it make the subjects look like aliens. In a way, we actually like the minimal distortion at 17mm, which you can certainly use to your advantage--making your portrait subjects appear longer and leaner, for example.  Additionally, we hardly noticed any chromatic aberration in our images.

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Another great thing about this lens is that its Minimum Object Distance for the entire zoom range is 11 inches, which means you can get really close to your subjects whether you're at 17mm or 35mm. With its distortion reduction capabilities, you'll get great close-up shots.

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While the lens' BBAR (Broad-Band Anti-Reflection) Coating is highly effective in giving your images excellent contrast and nice color rendering, it isn't that great when it comes to minimizing reflection, ghosting, and flare. There are, of course, other ways to reduce such things--filters, lens hood, your hand--but it would have been great if these things weren't necessary.

There's also the fact that it's a variable aperture lens so that its max aperture of F/2.8 is only limited to the 17mm focal length. However, as you start zooming in, this closes to F/4, which means you can't open your shutter as wide at 35mm. Is it a big deal? Probably not; but you'll definitely miss it especially when you love shooting at wide apertures.

PROS & CONS

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Pros
  • Superb image quality
  • Fast, accurate, and quiet AF
  • Minimal distortion and chromatic aberration
  • Great contrast and color reproduction
  • Weather sealing against moisture and dust
  • Light and compact design
  • Great handling
  • Super affordable price
Cons
  • Bokeh is just ok
  • Variable maximum aperture
  • Reflection, ghosting, and flare reduction could be better
  • No image stabilization

FINAL THOUGHTS

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The Tamron 17-35mm F/2.8-4 Di OSD is an excellent lens, no doubt about it. It produces super sharp images, and it handles distortion and chromatic aberration impressively, if not ghosting, flare, and reflection. It also boasts great weather sealing and can handle moisture, dust, heavy winds, and the cold, not to mention a fast and precise AF, and a light and compact design.

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Overall, this glass makes for a nice addition to your arsenal or a good starter lens for people on the budget. It's great for traveling, whether you're traveling in style or roughing it in the mountains with a single backpack to stow all your necessities. It's also a great, affordable lens to take with you if you're looking for something versatile. 

There are things about it that could be better, to be honest, but at $599, you can't expect perfection. At that price range, you want something that performs better than just functional and has maybe a couple of extras to enjoy, and that's exactly what Tamron did with the 17-35mm F/2.8-4.
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